Justin Steele’s stellar outing sets tone for Cubs in win
With runners on first and second and no outs in the 4th inning Saturday afternoon, Justin Steele took a moment to look up at the Wrigley Field scoreboard and composed himself.
“‘Alright, let’s keep this at no runs for them,’” Steele said to himself.
With the Cubs holding a 4-0 lead and the tying run on deck, Steele knew any mistake could allow the Brewers right back in the game.
“I try to focus a little bit more ’cause a hit scores a run in them situations,” Steele said.
That’s exactly what he did, inducing a ground ball out to Hunter Renfroe and then striking out Keston Hiura and Tyrone Taylor to escape the jam and preserve the Cubs’ lead.
The offense went on to put up 3 more runs in the bottom half of that inning to seal the victory over the Brewers and an opening series win. Steele’s strong outing set the tone for the Cubs as the lefty pitched 5 shutout innings, allowing just 1 walk and 4 hits while striking out 5.
He’s thrown 12 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to last year. He pitched 7 shutout innings in his last start of 2021 against the Pirates.
“It felt really good,” Steele said. “Just felt really good as far as execution on my pitches and what not.”
It was the type of performance that David Ross and the Cubs would have hoped to.
“We need him to be good for us to have success,” Ross said before the game. “He’s a big part of our future and success.”
And, as far as Ross is concerned, he’s just scratching the surface. After all, this is just Steele’s 4th start since the beginning of Spring Training, so he’s still not stretched out completely.
“I thought he was in and out of rhythm a little bit,” Ross said after the win. “I don’t think it was the best version of him, but it was a nice performance for opening day, for sure.”
Steele kept the Brewers at bay primarily by using his fastball and slider. He threw 77 pitches — the four-seam fastball 46 times and his slider 21 times.
His performance, coupled with Kyle Hendricks’ 5.1 innings of work on Opening Day gives the Cubs the perfect start they would have like from a starting pitching perspective. Now, they’ll turn to newly-signed Marcus Stroman to build off of that.
“That’s obviously the way you wanna start the season instead of 0-2 or 1-1. 2-0 is always better than them two options,” Steele said. “Very good to start off 2-0 and hopefully come in tomorrow and go 3-0 and get the sweep.”